Since there were no uniform definitions established for the various terms used in connection with food allergies, the Committee on Adverse Reactions to Foods, of the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology, suggested the following:
ADVERSE REACTION: a general term used to describe any abnormal reaction to a food or food additive that is consumed, whether caused by allergic or nonallergic mechanisms.
FOOD ALLERGY (hypersensitivity, or sensitivity): an abnormal immunologic reaction in which the body’s immune system overreacts to a component in a food. This commonly results in irritating, uncomfortable symptoms that occur after eating a food or food additive. An actual allergy only manifests itself in some people, usually as the result of a genetic factor, and may be noticeable after a small amount of the food or food additive is eaten (e.g. “wheezing” after consuming milk).
FOOD INTOLERANCE: is an abnormal physical response to a food or food additive that is eaten and is not proved to be immunologic. A good example is milk sugar (lactose) intolerance where the individual lacks the enzymes to break down the milk sugar for proper digestion.
FOOD ANAPHYLAXIS: a severe allergic reaction that can sometimes be fatal.
FOOD POISONING: a nonimmunologic adverse reaction caused by a food or food additive secondary to bacteria, or their toxic byproducts, contained in the food that is consumed.
PHARMACOLOGIC FOOD REACTION: an adverse reaction in which a chemical found in a food or food additive produces a drug-like (pharmacologic) effect. An example is the caffeine in coffee which can cause “the jitters”.